Who will wear Android Wear?

Commentary: Google has unleashed its smartwatch and wearables platform on the world. But is the world ready? More importantly, does it even care?

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The Moto 360 could be the most anticipated Android Wear smartwatch... that most people don't know about. James Martin/CNET

At Google I/O on Wednesday, the company finally launched Android Wear, its new wearables and smartwatch software platform, and announced the availability of the first Android Wear smartwatches from LG and Samsung. Glass-wearing Googlers cheered in San Francisco's Moscone Center, and the tech press live-blogged, tweeted, and Instagrammed the heck out of the proceedings. We'll surely be writing about the day's reveals for the rest of the week, at least.

And yet, when I check my Facebook feed and limit it to the couple hundred real-world contacts that live within the Santa Fe-Taos, N.M. area -- you know, actual friends and acquaintances I've at least shaken hands with -- there's not a single mention of Android Wear or Google I/O.

While we in the tech media are all losing our minds, the vast majority of Americans who not only don't own a Tesla or Google Glass, but don't even know anyone who does, well... they couldn't care less.

Like many Crave readers, I'm an early adopter. I've tried out a few of the early wearables, both fitness trackers and smartwatches. It feels pretty inevitable to me that they're the next big thing, and Android Wear is the first bit of gravitas and integration with a major operating system that the concept needed to trickle into the mainstream.

Then again, a lot more people used to feel the same way about virtual reality... over 20 years ago.

The staggering majority of people who have noticed me wearing a smartwatch or fitness tracker over the past six or so months have not only expressed no curiosity about the devices but typically mocked me. It's all in good fun, of course. I'm not saying I've got problems getting ribbed by my friends, but they tend to playfully ask me when I plan to become a full cyborg, or have "those Google Glasses" drilled into my skull.

Point is, it's really rare -- except perhaps when I'm traveling to California or New York City -- for anyone to react with interest and questions about the product.

But maybe I'm just this randomly located technology writer hanging out with Luddites in rural New Mexico, right? This is definitely a factor, but it's not just my charmingly analog friends and family. I mean, Samsung is now on its third stab at a smartwatch since last fall. How many Galaxy Gear watches have you seen in the wild?

I've seen one kid from my town with one. He was selling it on Craigslist... for $40.

Same goes for the early watches from Pebble and others. So far as the folks out here in fly-over country are concerned, they're techno-hipster jewelry. No, really, this is something people have actually told me. I think it's an insult, even though it sounds more like a great idea for an Etsy store to me.

Google is diving headlong into creating a world of wearables with Android Wear, and I'm rooting for them because I've experienced the value that a smartwatch can add to your phone, but it's going to take more than an auditorium filled with cheering software developers wearing computers on their heads to sell the notion.

Who knows? Maybe there's another monolithic tech company out there with a hugely devoted following and a solid approach to marketing and design that can convince the public that talking to your wrist could be even cooler than Dick Tracy made it look.

 

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